DNR Hydrology Resources Coordinator, Tim Hall, keeps an eye on the midwest drought monitor, which put out a new report today. “Things are creeping a little bit drier and a little bit worse on the drought monitor,” Hall says. “Not a whole lot of change — but the change that was is on the drier side. So, it’s not getting any better yet.”
The water situation is dramatically different from the top of the state where lawns are green and growing — to the bottom of the state — where the grass is brown and crunchy. “It’s a very, very sharp diving line that almost runs right along I-80 between areas that are way below normal for the first two weeks of August, and areas that are way above normal,” Hall says. “So, it’s really a north-south wet-dry pattern that we’ve been in for quite awhile here.”
The drought map shows extreme to moderate drought conditions in south-central and southeast Iowa. Hall says there haven’t been many changes in that area of the state. “Those folks down there in southeast Iowa have been dealing with below normal precipitation for probably two years now,” according to Hall. “You go back 12 months and there are areas down there that are 15 or more inches below normal for the last 12 months. So, it’s an ongoing issue for them.” Hall says the positive side of the drought in that area is their drinking water supplies haven’t suffered.
“Fortunately in many places in southern Iowa individuals get their drinking water through rural water systems which pull out of some of the lakes. So, we haven’t seen a lot of drinking water shortages across that part of the state,” Hall says. “So, on a drinking water side it’s okay. On an agricultural side — clearly those folks could use a lot of rain.” Hall says we are unfortunately getting into the time of the crop development where it may be too late for rain to help in that area. He says the drinking water situation would be a lot different if the northern part of the state was dry.
“The part of the state that’s the most vulnerable to shallow groundwater issues is the northwest part of the state, and fortunately they’ve had pretty healthy rainfall this year,” Hall explains. “Had the corners of the state been flip-flopped — instead of dryness in southeast Iowa, if it had been dryness in northwest Iowa — I think the situation would be much more critical than it is now.”
Hall says that’s no consolation to the farmers in the southern part of the state who need rain. He says they will continue to watch the water situation, as precipitation always drops off as we head into the fall months, and that could make things worse.